Cruising the Turkish Mediterranean
Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
235Trip End Nov 30, 2009
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Now I know some avid readers will probably put two and two together and realise that I've just been floating about the Greek Islands in many a boat, but seeing as those are mega ferries plying the waves at 30 knots per hour and resembling horizontal skyscrapers so you don't really get the 'Old Spice', salty wind through the hair feeling you do on something smaller. After all those and a myriad of trains and buses, a gulet ride around the south-west Turkish coast would be a pleasant change.
A gulet is a very popular type of sailing ship in this part of the world. That means that I don't know if it's a traditional (local) design or a reasonably new introduction, but they are everywhere on the Turkish coast and certainly a very comfortable and stylish way to get around. The smallest measure 60 or 70 foot in length which is enough to ensure a five roomy cabins as living quarters below decks and very spacious lounging areas both at the bow and the stern (front and back) above.
We signed up for the typical three night, four day 'blue' cruise from Feyithe to Demre, near Olympos and for those with dirty minds, it doesn't mean a porno boat, just that it gets out of the coves and hits the blue waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.
Our first stop was the soaring peaks and white sand beach of Oludeniz, with the opportunity to swim ashore and see a spiffy blue lagoon or have a tandem paraglide from the 1,000 metre high cliffs that tower above the bay. Lunch was served and I was considering the thermal surfing bit as it looked like great fun and included an amazing view to boot, until I heard the 70 pound sterling price tag (which still converts horribly into Turkish Lira or Aussie dollars despite losing some of its strength recently). Anyway, I must be getting cheap, jaded or lazy in my backpacking old age as I politely declined something I'd have done at the drop of a hat a few years ago.
With no other takers on the paragliding front we were off immediately at a brisk 10 knots per hour to Butterfly Valley (see above right). The sea was getting up a bit and for some reason the captain insisted on a straight course which saw the swell hitting us on the beam (directly from the side) the entire way, so we pitched and rolled a bit more than necessary making half the passengers more than a a little quesy. By the time we'd got there it was too rough to land so all we could do was admire this impressive valley from afar, sans butterflies as they only come out in autumn apparently. Oh well.
Whatever the difficulties of getting to the actual attractions, the Mediterranean coastline along southern Turkey is spectacular and quite bizarre. Rocky and swept of tall vegetation by the prevailing winds and a lack of soil, its pumice stone formations most resemble, despite the rubbish analogy, giant mounds of rice sprinkled with bold dashes of green herbs. It's completely unproductive and the stunted, straggly bushes clinging to thin cracks in the ragged stone outcrops make for a view that is exactly the same for hundreds of kilometres of winding coastline. It's unlike anything I've seen before and quite beautiful in its own way...
So past this we plowed on, loafing in the heat and longing for peace from the engine and a plunge in the cool waters of our first anchorage. A token sail went up a couple of times but this journey isn't about sailing, it's about getting places, which in the end worked out well as we made St Nicholas's Island by late afternoon and we got the swim we so desired.
The water is crystal clear everywhere and not too chilly despite the earliness of the season. Snorkels and masks came out but there is not much to see apart from a few pipe fish down below so once we'd soaked long enough we all adjourned to dinner and a couple of beers. Someone has to do it...
Next day was an absolute classic. Whilst the local sea-gulls were floating about on driftwood my very own Mystery was making legends of her own. After a few hours up on the bow baking in some pretty intense rays we decided to head below for some rest and respite from the sun. The boat was pitching a little and as I headed down I heard the motor change down gears and felt the boat swing sharply to port-side. Something was happening!
I came up again and saw someone in the water, 50 metres behind and who we were turning to assist. It took a little while to register that it was a hatless Mystery who had fallen overboard with full laze kit and who was now treading water whilst frantically waving book and bottle of sunscreen above the head - very definitely needing to be rescued! She had succumbed to a bout of heat dizziness while walking the gunwale and a pitch of the boat had tossed her through a gap in the safety railing and into the drink. Fortunately missing the propeller as the boat went by and with sunglasses and scarf still on, she had managed to keep everything pretty dry as we eventually pulled alongside.
With energy flagging and only one hand to grab the lifeline, I gallantly dived in to assist with the additional items and she was soon back on board. The book ('Memoirs of a Geisha') was saved and only the only injuries were a bruised beg and hurt pride after being christened 'Thorpey' (after swimming legend Ian Thorpe) by the rest of the gang. I was impressed by her cool head in an alarming situation and thank Ali the captain for his quick thinking after spotting her go overboard - it was the first time it had happened in 10 years on his boat so both did pretty well under the circumstances methinks!
With that little bit of excitement behind us we pulled into Kas (pron. Cash) to have lunch and stock up on the booze and munchies. Kas is a great little port with homely alleys, whitewashed houses and brilliant flowers all surrounded by the same hills we'd seen for miles behind us. With only an hour to spare we didn't really have time to enjoy it but it would be a very pleasant place to spend some time if you did.
That evening we anchored at Aquarium Bay next to just one other boat which was very pleasant and remote. The stars were blazing above and the second mate snorkeled around before hauling a bunch of seafood out of the water. Some of the girls hit the drink pretty early and fell by the wayside while the rest of us settled in for a long session of Texas Hold 'em gambling with sunflower seeds. I had a stack so large I'd have taken then and run (just like the old Kenny Rogers tune 'The Gambler') but it was winner takes all so it took until 2am to lose the lot so I could get to bed. Boo. Cheers to Steve and Stuart for a funny night.
Next morning we decided to get off the boat and move onwards, as we were lacking a working shower and (more importanly) Mystery's date with an airplane is rapidly approaching and we still have Cappadocia to see before meeting it at Ankara. Ali sorted this aspect but gave us the opportunity to cover a couple of highlights of the trip before disembarking - Simena and Sunken City.
According to his garbled translation, Simena and the city across the way was separated by an earthquake back in antiquity. I don't know if this is possible as it wasn't a large city to start with and it is separated by around 500 metres of water now (meaning it had to be a bloody big earthquake) but the ruins left are quite eerie as you glide by at close range. Steps leading to nowhere, foundations under the gently lapping waves and windows in ruined walls just up the slope hint at better times. Unfortunately you can't dive here because it's a national park - those views might be very interesting...
Simena itself is a quirky little village completely isolated except for water traffic. Dominated by a castle on the peak above, its main interest lies in the rugged, rocky pathways that lead through it, the explosion of flowers all over the place, and the collection of stone sarcophagii that grace the surrounding hillsides and in one instance, carved straight from a small island on the shore.
It doesn't even feature in the guidebooks (probably because it's absolutely inaccessible except by cruise) so I have no information about who is responsible for these graceful memorials that dot the landscape, although like many of the carved cliff tombs along this stretch of coast, I'd guess they are Lycian and date from around 500 BC. Whoever carved them deserves a hand because they're certainly very cute, much like the bloke sitting next to one in the last photo (just kidding ;-).
After seeing the gang of (cheers Leigh, Lauren, Pam, Shaun, Steve, Adam, Andrew and Samantha), we eventually made it to Demre for a bus to Olympos late that afternoon. Demre ain't much of a place now, but it just so happens to be the birthplace of a 4th century bishop who became the first St Nicholas (Father Christmas) because of his very generous habit of giving peasant girls their dowry so they could marry. No, Coca Cola didn't invent him but what a nice guy anyway!
Phew. Another bus to catch so better wind it up there. Next entry -> Olympos
Words from the Wise #65
I've got nothing today so apologies if this one is a little crass.
"Stuffing feathers up your arse doesn't necessarily make you a chicken..."
Brad Pitt (from some movie, maybe Fight Club)